Monthly Archives: March 2012

i and thou, amazing TAs, and freire

What does I and thou mean? Well, according to Martin Buber’s book, I and Thou, it is a way of experiencing a relationship with a person. The I-It relationship is used in describing experiences within the world. Prior to an interaction between two people or a person and an object, there is an “I and Thou” relationship. When you are in the presence of others, even without thinking of them directly, there is an “I-Thou”relationship. It is between two subjects whole beings – it is a non-quantifiable, but mutual interaction. In the time that you are meeting someone, in that instant that you are placing yourself in a location, in the world experiencing another person, it becomes an “I-It” relationship. That your existence and their existence are now mutually relating to one another’s, but seperately in the “I-It” world — this is deep. My very incomplete and basic explanation of this may not indicate the extent to which this reformed thought process should make you think about every person you have ever met.

In undergrad, at UVA, I took a Religion and Modern Fiction class. It was an amazing course that required me to read “I and Thou” in conjunction with Eli Wiesel’s “Gates of the Forest” – a Calvin and Hobbes type story of a Jew escaping the Holocaust with a mysterious sort of partner who you never really understand.  During the discussion section for this class (2 lectures per wk + 1 small discussion session), we were discussing these books and their relation. In the last 2 minutes before discussion ended, I wanted to know what the point was? Why do we need to experience I-Thou relationships? Or why do we need to recognize that we have them? The TA, Howard, whose name I still remember he was that good, replied: “because that acknowledgement and relationship can prevent a holocaust.” — woah. what? Ultimately, Buber was trying to get close to the Judea-Christian God, who he considered the Eternal Thou – the ultimate abstract relationship. Additionally though, he was trying to explain the sanctity of our beings ability to interact without our consent, and then how it changes in realizing that we have. Howard’s comment has stuck with me for a long time now – along with a half-baked understanding of this book.

This has been a long winded way of saying that what Freire had to say in his book reminded me of this book. His emphasis on the relationship between the teacher and the student is similar to what Buber is explaining. When Freire discusses the dichotomy between people and the world – people just live in the world, not with it or with other people and thus, the teachers job is to determine how the student should have the world filtered into him. Without the acknowledgment of people within the world and their experiences within the world, teachers can’t relate to students – you can’t have the proper I relationship with them for the most optimal type of learning. What is interesting is the Buber doesn’t really address the “banking” type of relationship as a relationship. He doesn’t address a way of interacting with people that isn’t sacred and important, even if it is completely within the tangible world and not an I-Thou relationship.

Anyway, as a teacher, I realize that I should aspire to have an I-It relationship with my students – one that recognizes them as other beings with whom I can share and learn.


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Post Secret

  • Frank!

On Wednesday, March 14, I had the privilege of attending a Post Secret (PS)   Event hosted by Frank Warren at Radford University. PS has been a part of  my weekly routine since high school – that makes it one of the longest term activities of my life. That seems dramatic, but really, what do you still do every week that you did in high school? After clicking the link that a  friend posted to the PS website in her AIM away message, I’ve been hooked ever since.

What is PS?

It is a blog where Frank Warren posts anonymous secrets that people send him each week. They generally involve artwork and a message. Out of the ones he receives, he posts 15 on the website on Sundays.

Yes, you read that correctly, people tell this man their deepest, darkest, most personal secrets. How did he earn your trust? I don’t know, but I trust him. I haven’t ever sent in a secret, but not for lack of trust or having them – I’m just waiting for the perfect one? I’m not really sure, but regardless, people trust this man, he knows so many secrets that no one else does. This is what is interesting about anonymity (which is incidently what makes blogging anonymously so interesting too). You can actually let go of your inhibitions and tell the truth without fear of judgement or harassment, but all the while knowing that there is someone else out there that shares your secret too. No one is alone.


It reads: If postsecret has taught me anything, it is that heartache (of any kind) is not personal. It is human.



That is why I actually saved this person’s secret to my computer. There is some boundary between us all being unique and individual and us being all connected by these secrets. Frank Warren has somehow allowed us to stand on that boundary in a way that I don’t think we’ve been able to before.

During his presentation, Frank told us personal stories about his life, showed us post cards that couldn’t be published in the books (because they were afraid walmart wouldn’t sell them – walmart has never sold them anyway), and invited us to share our secrets with him.  Additionally, he explained how sad he was that the PS phone app didn’t work out due to misuse. Since it was still completely anonymous, people could continually upload inappropriate photos without any repercussions. You could report the inappropriate cards, and they would be removed, but there was no way to stop repeat offenders. Anonymity isn’t always a good thing. He also included this audio portion where we could load a song onto a smart phone from the website. It kind of sounded like what you want fireflies on a warm (mosquito-less) summer night to sound like. That may not make sense, but the song was essentially chimes that created a really interesting effect as you sat there. There was something sort of magical about it, and it was a great way to end the night.

I did get to have a post card signed from him which I will have to put in one of his books that I own or a scrapbook.

This is a brief glimpse into what PS has shown me and taught me through the years. I hope that everyone can visit the website and start their own journey of following a blog that has made so many people feel less alone.


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east coast tour

The east coast is home, and I like it. I’ve been traveling a lot the past 3 weeks, and I like that too. My travel started when I went to Chicago recently, then to Urbana-Champagne for a conference at the University of Illinois. It was weird though, it felt homey in an unnerving but good sort of way. I’d always considered myself to be an east coaster, but maybe not? Who says I can’t go wherever? I worked this summer in Austria which was really amazing. I could see myself living there too, but somehow, that seems less radical than moving off the coast. The rest of my traveling has been up and down the east coast because I have a lot of friends here to visit. Anyway, I’m enjoying the break, but will be looking forward to being able to sit down at home.

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oh, hi

Well, it’s sadly been a while since I posted. I’ve been at conferences back to back and have been going crazy trying to stay on top of research. Also, internet access has been sort of shoddy and one time I came to blog, the site wasn’t working. No more excuses now. I’m blogging this post, now. Alright…rambling aside.

For class we’ve been asked to comment on the Honors Residential College blogs. I have been reading through a decent number of them, and I must say, a 18-19 year olds brain is quite different from mine. It is brilliant to see some of them taking such initiative with what they want to do with their lives, and more brilliant that they are realizing that decisions made in college matter and don’t matter at the same time. While it’s important to get good grades and try to take classes which you think will direct you in the right direction – your major doesn’t have to determine the rest of your life. It’s a little different if you are an engineer since I could no sooner do the job of a chemical engineer than he/she could do mine as an electrical engineer. However, when I think about this example, there is a whole area of electrical engineering which is much more chemistry oriented. It is called solid state design and revolves around transistors and the like if you are interested. So, even with engineering, there is some fluidity.

There are a few things that I wish I’d known when I was in my first few years of college. I’ll list a few of them here in hopes that one of them may stumble upon this.

1. Linear algebra is really important, you may think you finished important math with diff eq, but you’re wrong. Memorize those theorems and understand that stuff. It will help you later on (more so if you’re in grad school).

2. Do your homework mostly alone and then go meet up with people in a group.  Unless you are the brilliant superstar of the group, don’t be fooled by thinking you know what’s going on when really someone else figured it out. It will help a lot on tests.

3. Volunteer and don’t stop. I did Adopt a Grandparent in my undergraduate career. It was one of the most rewarding parts of college –  old people are really amazing. I’m not fond of children in some part because I don’t learn from them in the same way that I can learn from older people.* They have such good stories…so just ask them about them! I’m sure they’d love to talk to you.

4. Find people who make you happy and make sure you make them part of your top priority – I’m talking about the people who make you feel warm and fuzzy inside (and try to make them feel the same way back). These people will make your college experience. I feel like the people I know who really, really loved college have a group of friends they feel very close to…it’s a pretty common theme. So again, make them a priority.

5. Try to spend as little time wasting time as possible. This is hard, I know it. But seriously, try not to just lay in bed all day or be on reddit/facebook constantly. There are so many experiences to be had. Go out and have them!! A friend of mine just said something recently that was along the lines: Drink a red bull, can’t fall asleep on life.

6. Save money on small things and treat yourself to something special…vacations, nice dinners, whatever. You won’t really miss that chipotle, but you will miss being able to go on spring break.

*I know you learn from a child’s fresh perspective on life and that is good, but it’s not wisdom.

**These are not in any order…just came to mind. I think number 1 is due to a more recent research issue (but it has come up tons of times in the last 3 years).

Good luck kids, you’ll be a different person after you’re done with THE BEST FOUR YEARS OF YOUR LIFE!!

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